“Secrets can harm you. To uncover them, learn to read body language.” – Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (Click to Tweet)
To interpret someone’s body gestures accurately, you must understand the meaning of their movements and verbal utterances. And that’s how you expose their hidden secrets. Because reading body language is like peeping into someone’s mind, it’s a skill that enhances your negotiation efforts too. To interpret someone’s body language accurately, you should observe the following.
Using Power Words
You can’t make me. Oh, yes, I can. No, you can’t. You might remember hearing such words when you were a kid. During such times, when kids spoke those words, they were spurred to adopt one position versus another. And even though you’re not a kid any longer, you can still use words to motivate someone to expose themselves. But wait, you may be thinking – this is about reading body language. And you’re right, it is. You can use words, coupled with your body language gestures, to create emotional movement and displays in others. And that’s how you can unlock their hidden secrets.
Power words (e.g., I will, I’m sure, that’s right) make you appear more assured of your position, compared to assertions that project a less compelling image (e.g., maybe, I think, possibly). When you use powerful words, coupled with a decisive body language gesture and verbal signaling (i.e., leaning forward, speaking more forcibly and at a quickened pace), you promote a defiant image that signals, don’t be trivial with me – I’m on to you. That persona enhances the thought that you may know more than your target suspects. If you intentionally choose to be less challenging and decided to use less forceful words, you’d adopt a softer body language posture to affect your façade, one that was less in-your-face.
Think of a growling dog for a moment. Did you imagine saliva oozing out of its mouth? If you’ve ever had a bad experience with a dog that frightened you, you probably had a flashback to that experience a moment ago. How did you feel then and how do you feel right now? Did your heart rate increase then? Is it elevated right now, just thinking about the situation?
Fear shows itself through widened eyes, quick breathing, elevated perspiration. If an attempt to mask it occurs, it may also show through a change in speech pace, and more touching of one’s self. Those actions are an unconscious attempt to relieve the stress that one is experiencing.
You can induce the fear factor into a discussion by injecting an unpleasant memory into the mind of your target, and implying that you know they’re not truthful with you. To enhance your efforts, use assumptive questions (questions that suggest you know more than you’re letting on – e.g., you know I know you’re not telling me the real story – don’t you?) Lean forward as you make your pronouncement. And watch the demeanor the person adopts. Note if they appear frightened per the signs mentioned (e.g., widening of the eyes, mouth agape, clutching themselves for protection or comfort) to indicate that.
I’ve already mentioned a few ways you can solicit information to unlock secrets based on the posture you adopt (i.e., leaning forward, back, coupled with using the appropriate words to suit the persona you wish to project, etc.). The following are additional ways to propel your image and to unlock someone’s secrets.
Strong Image – Hands on your hips, a snarl on your face, coupled with words that are sharp, short, and poignant – This image conveys a no-nonsense stance. And it can be used when attempting to enhance the intimidation factor in someone.
Subdued Image – Hands spread apart, palms turned upward, a smile on your face – This persona signifies that you’re open to listening to the other person’s side of a story. Adopt this demeanor when you’ve gained the cooperation of the other party. Do it to display that you’re not out to harm him as the result of him telling you his secret.
Be Reflective – People unconsciously adhere to the wishes of others when they perceive their actions stemming from others that they’ve emitted. Thus, to control someone’s thought process better, mimic their movements and words to convey that the two of you are alike. Subliminally, they’ll see their reflection in you and open up. But, if after several occurrences of mimicking them, they don’t open up, stop imitating them. Instead, initiate a more doubting posture (e.g., crossing your arms, closing your hands to indicate how dire the situation is, etc.).
When that person begins to mirror your movements, start questioning them more intensely. At that point, they’ve started to follow your lead, which means they’re more susceptible to being more truthful. Be aware of the time spent in your attempts to extract someone’s secrets. That will also have an impact on their willingness to separate themselves from their secrets.
There are seven micro-expressions generic to everyone on earth – they’re displayed approximately for one-quarter of a second. That means everyone will react the same way to the same stimuli no matter where they live in the world. Once you become astute at identifying micro-expressions, you’ll have additional insight per someone’s inner emotional state. The seven micro-expressions are.
- Fear – When detecting genuine fear, look for raised eyebrows, widened eyes, and parted lips with the bottom lip protruding downward.
- Anger – Anger is denoted by lowered eyebrows and flaring nostrils reminiscent of a bull before charging.
- Disgust – This micro-expression is displayed by the upper lip turned up, while the nose is wrinkled.
- Surprise – You’ll recognize surprise through raised eyebrows, wide eyes, and open mouth.
- Contempt – This gesture appears as a sneer. You’ll note it by one corner of the mouth turned upward.
- Sadness – Note sadness through drooping eyelids and downturned lips. A change in voice inflection and tonality may also accompany genuine sorrow.
- Happiness – Happiness is shown through wide-eyes with crow’s feet or wrinkles at their corners, a smile, and raised cheeks. A degree of exuberance may also accompany this gesture.
When you’re questioning someone, their heightening degree of stress signals how close you are to exposing their secrets. Be aware of those signals. Noting them will allow you to unlock more secrets. It will also be an indicator that you’re reading their body language accurately. And everything will be right with the world.
Remember, you’re always negotiating!
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